By JOSH SIGLER KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — A hot-shooting Purdue University Calumet squad spoiled the Indiana University Kokomo men’s basketball team’s first true home game Wednesday night.
The Peregrines bolted out of the gates in the second half on a 34-10 run through the first 13 minutes, erasing a halftime deficit on its way to a 70-52 win over the Cougars in their new digs, Cougar Gym.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the opposing team, but we didn’t do a very good job of taking care of ourselves on the defensive end,” IUK coach Jace Thompson said. “We had some really big defensive mental errors.”
The Cougars (0-2) held a 26-23 halftime lead, hitting 10 of 19 shots from the floor while holding PUC to an 8-for-24 performance from the floor in the same span. But, IUK committed 17 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, helping the Peregrines stay well within striking distance. PUC snapped out of the cold shooting spell in the second half, hitting its first 10 shots from the floor through the first 6:30. IUK was 3 of 9 in that same span, helping PUC build a 47-32 lead by the 13:34 mark of the second half.
“Twenty five turnovers is what it says on the stat sheet for the game, but I bet it was more in the 30s and was at 17 at the half,” Thompson said. “We gave them 30 extra possessions and I’m surprised we only lost by 18. If you can cut the turnovers in half [in the first half], we were shooting 50 percent at the time. As I told the other coaches we should’ve had a 15-point lead and we cost ourselves. It’s a different ballgame if you can do that.”
Junior forward David Kelly led the Cougars with nine points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Spencer Krhin added eight points, three assists, three blocks and two steals, while Jared Lawrence added eight points off the bench. Kendall Broome and Bobby Blackwell both added seven points in the loss.
Junior point guard Noah Allen added seven points and a game-high five assists in 34 minutes for PUC. The former Carroll Cougar entered the night as the Peregrines’ (2-1) leading scorer at 13.5 points per game.
“It was great coming back home on the backroads, remembering the paths we used to take to games when I was in high school,” Allen said. “Four of my old coaches showed up, so seeing them in the stands made me feel comfortable. And we got the win, which is the most important thing. We struggled in the first half but loosened up and were able to get out and run a little bit in the second half.”
IUK, in its third season as a program, played its home games at Western High School during its inaugural season in 2011-12 before moving to Kokomo High School last season. Kokomo High School’s original pool, behind Memorial Gym on Superior Street, was transformed into Cougar Gym and now serves as the home facility for IUK’s volleyball and men’s basketball programs. IUK is set to start a women’s basketball program next season, as well, and Thompson said he’s excited about the prospects of having a place the programs can call their exclusive home.
“We have a great home court advantage now,” Thompson said. “While our gym only seats about 400 people, it sounds like there’s 4,000 people in here. We had some recruits in here [Wednesday] night and it was a great atmosphere for our program. I couldn’t be more excited for what this means for us going forward. The fan support has always been great, and it was nice to see them fill the gym up [Wednesday] night.”